Feature-length documentary that examines a San Francisco-based Alternate Reality Game, where thousands of participants got more than they bargained for. Told from the players' perspectives, the film looks over the precipice at an emergent new art form where the real world and fiction narratives merge to create unforeseen and often unsettling consequences.Written by
The AMC series Dispatches from Elsewhere is based on this documentary. See more »
An seemingly normal office building in San Francisco held a secret; a strange office for something called The Jejune Institute.
At first glance, The Jejune Institute appears to be a cult. But some of their claims seemed outlandish even by cult standards -- a machine that records your memories to a VHS tape? A method for talking to dolphins? Huh? Those looking for a strange adventure would visit The Jejune Institute, only to be presented with a trippy presentation, a scavenger hunt, etc.
Let me assure you that this film does document many real events. Yes, people really did visit a payphone and dance. Yes, there really was a protest at Union Square. Yes, the Jejune Institute was a real place in a real office building.
I can tell you all of this for certain because I participated in The Jejune Institute and the so-called "Games of Nonchalance" that are documented in this film. I suppose I can't review a film fairly as someone who is documented in it, even if only in the background. But the film is not the game.
Ultimately, with The Institute there's a moment during the film where you star to question whether what you're seeing is real, is part of the game, or is fictionalized for the purpose of the film. I'm sure that moment will be different for everyone.
Even as someone who played Games of Nonchalance in its entirety, I'm not sure I can decipher fact from fiction with 100% accuracy. Watching The Institute for the first time felt a lot like watching Exit Through The Gift Shop, where it's unclear how much of what the camera is feeding you is true and how much the director is winking and smiling.
There's no question in my mind that this was the right decision for telling the story of the Games of Nonchalance. An alternate reality game messes with your head; for a film to capture such a game, it must do the same.
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